The holidays are upon us! And with that comes bloated shopping lists, emotional meltdowns at the mall, and painful credit card bills. The season can be costly, and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be…
1. Trim your list before you trim your tree
Seriously: cut people off your gift-giving list. This will save you cash, and help you keep your calm(er). I know it’s a wonderful thing to give gifts, especially if it’s one of your love-languages, but there are ways to show you care without presenting a brown paper package tied up with string. When my husband and I were first married we were broke as a joke, and didn’t have the cash to buy gifts for our aunts and uncles. It was an ideal time to transition to a nice card and holiday letter. While our finances have improved, we haven’t gone back to giving gifts to extended family members. To be honest, I don’t think any of them have missed out on our gifts, and may even have been relieved to not receive extra stuff every December. This can be a painful step for some, but you’ll save money if you don’t spend it in the first place.
Take a hard look at your new list and create a budget. You may want to focus on the total number of dollars you have to spend and work from there, or set maximum limits per gift. I like to use cash to pay for Christmas presents, because I can’t add on extra that way (unlike with a credit card).
3. Save up
We save our change throughout the year, and typically split it between our vacation fund and our Christmas fund. I also like to throw the odd bill in there, and or try to set aside twenty from every paycheque. It’s not always possible, but it’s a low-key way to build a little nest egg for Christmas shopping.
4. See if you can use loyalty points or plans when possible
My husband and I both have Visa Rewards Points, and we save our points until November, then order gift cards with the points. Sometimes the gift cards are gifts for specific people, while other times we get cards for book, toy, or home goods stores, which then pay for various presents. Other people I know do all their shopping in co-ops or other stores that offer member discounts. Many of these stores also offer additional discounts on special Midnight Madness evenings, so it’s worth checking out if you are a member of a co-op or loyalty program.
5. Shop local
Avoid the mall and head to a shopping district. Restricting yourself to a particular geographic area can help reduce stress, plus eliminates the possibility of Christmas Eve mall meltdowns. You’re also supporting local businesses this way. Many business improvement areas hold Midnight Madness events, so you may get a discount that way, plus the opportunity to enjoy some community festivities.
6. Buy second hand
I love the thrill of the thrift store hunt, so it’s an extra bonus when I can find something pre-loved. I find this strategy works well for children: most of my daughter’s gifts have come second hand and it’s never bothered her because NEW TOYS. Check out consignment stores, flea markets, kijiji. Second hand shopping has allowed us to afford high quality items without paying a full retail price. If think people might wrinkle their nose at this suggestion, keep in mind that second hand doesn’t necessarily mean “used,” especially if you go the consignment or kijiji route.
7. Change it up
Maybe it’s time to start giving experiential gifts. Maybe your adult family is in the mood to switch to group gifts, or drawing names. Maybe it’s time to discuss putting a maximum limit on spending, or to stop traditions that no longer make sense. If you’re planning on going this route, I would suggest bringing it up in September or October, as it gives people time to think about changes, and to adjust expectations as necessary.
8. Do a handmade Christmas
Do you have a skill, hobby, or talent that you could share with others? Put it to good use during the holidays. Pace yourself, and have realistic expectations regarding what you can create, but this is a truly heartfelt way to change your approach to gift giving.
9. Compare sales
I tend to do a lot of comparison shopping online before I buy, and find it really helpful to subscribe to e-flyers for different retailers. I know at some point during the holiday season certain brands and items are going to be offered at a discount, so I watch and wait for the price drop. The same goes for online retailers. Chances are you can score a deal on something, if you are willing to do your homework.
10. Repeat steps one and two as necessary
What are your stress-reducing gift-giving tips?